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The  Art  Of 


(this site is a work in progress)

Friedrich Kalkbrenner Preludio Nr. 1 in C major Op. 88

Jeroen Malaise, Pleyel Concert Grand 1841

with the support of Piano’s Maene and the Chris Maene Collection

Muzio Clementi - from Preludes and Exercises, Op.43

Jeroen Malaise, pianoforte Longman Clementi 1798

with the support of Piano’s Maene and the Chris Maene Collection



This website offers various approaches to practicing the art of improvisational preluding at the piano. This discipline was once common practice but more or less disappeared during the last century. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in reviving this artform. The content found on this website is the result of years of research in the artistic and pedagogical field, currently in an academic research project at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp in Belgium. It relies on historical didactic instructions to make preluding at the piano accessible and up-to-date again, and promotes the development of a contemporary approach.


An improvised prelude precedes a piece of repertoire in the same key. Such a prelude is very short, usually between 10 and 30 seconds, but depending on the circumstances it can be longer. It is based on a harmonic progression similar to an extended cadenza.


Learning to improvise preludes means developing harmonic knowledge, keyboard skills and a vivid imagination, so mastering this discipline cannot be accomplished by only following a linear, step-by-step plan. This is why each section of the website approaches preluding from a different angle. Young pianists or beginners should first familiarize themselves with basics, whereas advanced pianists could start with harmonizations and diminutions. 


Historically, improvised keyboard preludes were a common phenomenon in the 19th century, and they could serve various purposes: as an introductory gesture, a kind of warm-up, an announcement of the following piece, an expressive soliloquy, a way of becoming familiar with the instrument, a means of attracting the listener's attention or raising their expectations, a test of the instrument's tuning and the hall's acoustics, and above all a way to set the mood for the piece that is being introduced. Although the tradition of improvisational preluding or l'Art de Préluder extended into the early 20th century, it reached its peak between 1770 and 1840, with master pianists such as Mozart, Clementi, Dussek, Beethoven, Kalkbrenner, Hummel, Czerny, Moscheles, Chopin and Liszt. According to Czerny, preluding is the very first step into the domain of improvisation.


The art of preluding is a demanding discipline that requires the performer not only to have sufficient knowledge and technical skills, but also to be creative and spontaneous while adapting to the circumstances of that moment, inviting the public to a unique experience. 

Many thanks for the outstanding advice from Yves Senden, Frank Agsteribbe, Wout Gooris, Ewald Demeyere, Korneel Bernolet,

Bram Van Camp, Chris Maene, Piet Kuijken and Rachel Perfecto.


Jeroen Malaise(°1971, Antwerp, Belgium) is a pianist-composer and teacher at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp. As a performer and creator he has a fascination for various traditions and different forms of improvisation. 

Jeroen played several keyboard instruments from an early age on, including clavichord, harpsichord and piano. He performed with various productions in most European countries and different continents.

Koen Broos

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